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Monday, February 24, 2014

"Mission Drift" (Peter Greer & Chris Horst)

TITLE: Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches
AUTHOR: Peter Greer & Chris Horst
PUBLISHER: Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2014, (224 pages).

Do you know that the original founding of great Ivy league institutions such as Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth, Princeton, Cornell, Brown, Pennsylvania all had Puritan beginnings? Do you know that child sponsorship charity, ChildFund International had Christian roots? Yet, why do these organizations look so different over time? Why are so many of them unable to fulfill the original missions that they were founded upon? The reason: Every organization drifts over time.The scary thing is not about whether any well-intentioned organization will experience a drift in its mission. It is a matter of when.

From Churches to non-profits, the moment they stop emphasizing their mission, they are called to "drift." That is why authors Dr Peter Greer and Chris Horst, leaders of the non-profit, HOPE International, state upfront: "Without careful attention, faith-based organizations will invariably drift from their founding mission." The example of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton is a case in point. Founded in 1636, Harvard's original mission was to ground students on the foundation of the gospel for the work of Christ. As early as 1701, Christian clergymen sensed that Harvard had become overly secularized. Those concerned about such a drift founded Yale in 1718. Unfortunately, the same thing happened to Yale which led to the founding of Princeton in 1746. All the Ivy Leagues had Christian roots. Yet, the Ivy Leagues of today looked more secular than ever before. What happened? They drifted from their original mission. Why?

Comparing two organizations, the authors note how Compassion International stayed true to their mission roots while ChildFund International started to dumb down their own Christian emphasis. The former remains Mission True while the other becomes mission untrue. By interviewing dozens of prominent leaders and hundreds of hours listening to the many stories, Greer and Horst try to find out what it takes to stay Mission True and at the same time sound a warning to organizations that will eventually experience Mission Drift. Two key drifts are highlighted: Personal and Institutional. The former is the one that happens during our watch. The other is the drift that happens outside of our watch. Both require humility to recognize one's vulnerability and to make plans to address them. Two chapters are dedicated to describing what Mission Drift is and how pervasive it is to all organizations. Thirteen chapters, in fact the most part of the book, is dedicated to describing how to be Mission True organizations. Here are some of the characteristics of Mission True organizations:
  1. They are convicted that the Gospel is their single biggest asset
  2. They will do everything to protect and to propel their mission
  3. They will anticipate the dangers of drifting by building adequate safeguards
  4. They are very clear about their purpose
  5. They have top leaders who understand where their top priorities are
  6. They have leaders who set the tone for the whole organization
  7. They hire people based more on heart and character rather than knowledge and technical skills
  8. They partner with donors who believe in their core mission and values
  9. They regularly track metrics to know how their performance reflect their mission
  10. They understand that the Gospel demands excellence in their mission
  11. They are passionate about rituals and practices
  12. They regularly proclaim their core tenets so that they can remain Mission True and avoid drifting
  13. They recognize the importance of Church as the anchor of any thriving mission
Every chapter is filled with stories of real organizations. Each chapter maintains a set of tips and guidelines on how best to protect, to proclaim, and to propel organizations to be Mission True, and to be faithful to their original calling and purpose. This is a compelling book indeed, reminding us that there is no such thing as normal. Leaders and organizations must recognize that even when the waters are calm, that does not mean there is no danger underneath. A little wave, a tiny detour, or a small drift, can render any organization astray. Subsequently, they come up different and lead to a loss of identity. I appreciate the authors' three key points about Character, Competence, and Chemistry. The fact that Harvard's overwhelming emphasis on credentials over character that led to its mission drift is a stark contrast to Chick-Fil-A's strong cultural emphasis on these three Cs. 

Organizational leaders and board members ought to read this book. Those in key management positions too. Pastors and elders of churches will also benefit. Thanks to Greer and Horst, I am more sensitive to dangers that happen on the inside rather than the outside.  If an apple is damaged on the outside, we can easily see it and stop any decay as soon as possible. If the rot happens from the inside, because it is not easily seen, it will cause greater damage. Mission Drift is essentially about preventing any such rot from the inside. Put this book next to your library about leadership, visioning and mission statements.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

1 comment:

  1. Conrade - Thanks for the incredibly kind review. Your insights and reflections on the book are a real encouragement to us.